For those bashing EA..... Any old-schooler will tell ya, EA is not some great company. Yeah, they've released some great games, but the bottom line is they're the fabled 'corporate giant' out to make money and eliminate competitors. Been that way since the early 80's. Another victim of EA you might have heard of, the Wing Commander series (Privateer as well). If they can't rush out better games than you, they'll buy you out and kill your franchise.
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Oh man Cara Ellison? She always shows up in the best places!
My „team” is just me. Elder Games is a one-man show at the moment with some freelancers occasionally helping out. In case of Meridian: Squad 22, a freelance graphic artist made the worker Drone for me, and Hexany Audio provided all sound effects.
I’ve always worked on my own games, never contributed to anyone else’s.
Features of Meridian: Squad 22
To me, the most important feature is the research system. In most other RTS games, when you play the campaign, you receive new tech in a fixed order. In Meridian: Squad 22, you can choose what tech to unlock next, allowing you to play the campaign in your own playstyle. This is a game where turtling in your base is possible as much as rushing your opponent. You can also focus on just producing infantry, or take out key components of the enemy infrastructure with your naval units. This kind of freedom provided by the research system is, I think, the best aspect of Squad 22.
Enemy AI and unit pathfinding were the two toughest things to get right. Another difficult aspect of development was the fact that Meridian: Squad 22 is the second Meridian game out of the four games planned. Squad 22’s story had to stand on its own, but also foreshadow a lot of events that will happen in future Meridian games. This proved to be a much bigger challenge than I initially anticipated.
Creating Battle Arenas
I’m hand-placing everything in every single campaign map, with great attention to detail. Most small details – radar stations, silos, vents with smokes, pipes – are exclusively modeled for just one small part of a single map. This is tough to do as I’m an indie developer with limited resources, but worth it, as it provides a huge amount of detail and variation for the maps.
Conquest mode is different though – those missions are procedurally generated for you every time you enter a battle, so I had to get the map generation algorithm right for that to work.
Unit design usually begins by thinking of a function, a role that none of the existing units fulfill yet. Eg. when designing the Wraith Bomber unit, it occured to me that no other unit has splash damage yet. So the Wraith Bomber has that, and it is an efficient counter to mass infantry. The thought process goes like this at first, but then I also have to think about the unit’s weakness. My main design principles are that no unit should be able to counter everything, every unit should be designed to have a specific role and most importantly, don’t add units just for the sake of adding them.
Because of these principles, Meridian: Squad 22 doesn’t have any unnecessary units, you can find a use for all of them. Which ones you’ll use simply becomes a matter of preference.
I usually think of a feature that I would enjoy. Let’s say this feature is having naval units. This is rare in sci-fi games anyway, so let’s add ships! I start by asking questions, then writing all my answers down. What kind of ships should there be? What roles do they perform? What kind of weapons do they have?
In the end, I went with one combat, one defensive and one economy-centered ship, all of which can help you a great deal. This is based on an existing core feature, research, which is also divided into these three categories.
So the Cyclone unit is an effective attacker, the Hellbringer’s attack is slow but can defend your base against all kinds of attacks, and the Scavenger collects the debris of destroyed ships and turns it into Shardium for you.
This is usually how new features are created – I think of something fun, then try to base it on one of the core features of the game so it integrates well with what’s already there.
In the Early Access phase, feedback is very important and fixes are frequent. Whenever someone encounters a bug, I usually try and fix it in a few days so it can be included in the next update. If there’s a feature request, I’ll try and find a place for that feature. If it would fit well with the rest of the game, I implement it. If it would fundamentally change what the game is about, I interact with the community to find a way to implement the request together.
Meridian: Squad 22 will hopefully be released in August!